Archive for the ‘lifeboat’ category: Page 12

May 2, 2010

Nuclear Winter and Fire and Reducing Fire Risks to Cities

Posted by in categories: defense, existential risks, lifeboat, military, nuclear weapons

This is a crosspost from Nextbigfuture

I looked at nuclear winter and city firestorms a few months ago I will summarize the case I made then in the next section. There is significant additions based on my further research and email exchanges that I had with Prof Alan Robock and Brian Toon who wrote the nuclear winter research.

The Steps needed to prove nuclear winter:
1. Prove that enough cities will have firestorms or big enough fires (the claim here is that does not happen)
2. Prove that when enough cities in a suffient area have big fire that enough smoke and soot gets into the stratosphere (trouble with this claim because of the Kuwait fires)
3. Prove that condition persists and effects climate as per models (others have questioned that but this issue is not addressed here

The nuclear winter case is predictated on getting 150 million tons (150 teragram case) of soot, smoke into the stratosphere and having it stay there. The assumption seemed to be that the cities will be targeted and the cities will burn in massive firestorms. Alan Robock indicated that they only included a fire based on the radius of ignition from the atmospheric blasts. However, in the scientific american article and in their 2007 paper the stated assumptions are:

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Dec 30, 2009

Ark-starship – too early or too late?

Posted by in categories: existential risks, lifeboat, space

It is interesting to note that the technical possibility to send interstellar Ark appeared in 1960th, and is based on the concept of “Blust-ship” of Ulam. This blast-ship uses the energy of nuclear explosions to move forward. Detailed calculations were carried out under the project “Orion”. In 1968 Dyson published an article “Interstellar Transport”, which shows the upper and lower bounds of the projects. In conservative (ie not imply any technical achievements) valuation it would cost 1 U.S. GDP (600 billion U.S. dollars at the time of writing) to launch the spaceship with mass of 40 million tonnes (of which 5 million tons of payload), and its time of flight to Alpha Centauri would be 1200 years. In a more advanced version the price is 0.1 U.S. GDP, the flight time is 120 years and starting weight 150 000 tons (of which 50 000 tons of payload). In principle, using a two-tier scheme, more advanced thermonuclear bombs and reflectors the flying time to the nearest star can reduce to 40 years.
Of course, the crew of the spaceship is doomed to extinction if they do not find a habitable and fit for human planet in the nearest star system. Another option is that it will colonize uninhabited planet. In 1980, R. Freitas proposed a lunar exploration using self-replicating factory, the original weight of 100 tons, but to control that requires artificial intelligence. “Advanced Automation for Space Missions” Artificial intelligence yet not exist, but the management of such a factory could be implemented by people. The main question is how much technology and equipment should be enough to throw at the moonlike uninhabited planet, so that people could build on it completely self-sustaining and growing civilization. It is about creating something like inhabited von Neumann probe. Modern self-sustaining state includes at least a few million people (like Israel), with hundreds of tons of equipment on each person, mainly in the form of houses, roads. Weight of machines is much smaller. This gives us the upper boundary of the able to replicate human colony in the 1 billion tons. The lower estimate is that there would be about 100 people, each of which accounts for approximately 100 tons (mainly food and shelter), ie 10 000 tons of mass. A realistic assessment should be somewhere in between, and probably in the tens of millions of tons. All this under the assumption that no miraculous nanotechnology is not yet open.
The advantage of a spaceship as Ark is that it is non-specific reaction to a host of different threats with indeterminate probabilities. If you have some specific threat (the asteroid, the epidemic), then there is better to spend money on its removal.
Thus, if such a decision in the 1960th years were taken, now such a ship could be on the road.
But if we ignore the technical side of the issue, there are several trade-offs on strategies for creating such a spaceship.
1. The sooner such a project is started, the lesser technically advanced it would be, the lesser would be its chances of success and higher would be cost. But if it will be initiated later, the greater would be chances that it will not be complete until global catastrophe.
2. The later the project starts, the greater are the chance that it will take “diseases” of mother civilization with it (e.g. ability to create dangerous viruses ).
3. The project to create a spaceship could lead to the development of technologies that threaten civilization itself. Blast-ship used as fuel hundreds of thousands of hydrogen bombs. Therefore, it can either be used as a weapon, or other party may be afraid of it and respond. In addition, the spaceship can turn around and hit the Earth, as star-hammer — or there maybe fear of it. During construction of the spaceship could happen man-made accidents with enormous consequences, equal as maximum to detonation of all bombs on board. If the project is implementing by one of the countries in time of war, other countries could try to shoot down the spaceship when it launched.
4. The spaceship is a means of protection against Doomsday machine as strategic response in Khan style. Therefore, the creators of such a Doomsday machine can perceive the Ark as a threat to their power.
5. Should we implement a more expensive project, or a few cheaper projects?
6. Is it sufficient to limit the colonization to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter’s moons or objects in the Kuiper belt? At least it can be fallback position at which you can check the technology of autonomous colonies.
7. The sooner the spaceship starts, the less we know about exoplanets. How far and how fast the Ark should fly in order to be in relative safety?
8. Could the spaceship hide itself so that the Earth did not know where it is, and should it do that? Should the spaceship communicate with Earth? Or there is a risk of attack of a hostile AI in this case?
9. Would not the creation of such projects exacerbate the arms race or lead to premature depletion of resources and other undesirable outcomes? Creating of pure hydrogen bombs would simplify the creation of such a spaceship, or at least reduce its costs. But at the same time it would increase global risks, because nuclear non-proliferation will suffer complete failure.
10. Will the Earth in the future compete with its independent colonies or will this lead to Star Wars?
11. If the ship goes off slowly enough, is it possible to destroy it from Earth, by self-propelling missile or with radiation beam?
12. Is this mission a real chance for survival of the mankind? Flown away are likely to be killed, because the chance of success of the mission is no more than 10 per cent. Remaining on the Earth may start to behave more risky, in logic: “Well, if we have protection against global risks, now we can start risky experiments.” As a result of the project total probability of survival decreases.
13. What are the chances that its computer network of the Ark will download the virus, if it will communicate with Earth? And if not, it will reduce the chances of success. It is possible competition for nearby stars, and faster machines would win it. Eventually there are not many nearby stars at distance of about 5 light years — Alpha Centauri, the Barnard star, and the competition can begin for them. It is also possible the existence of dark lonely planets or large asteroids without host-stars. Their density in the surrounding space should be 10 times greater than the density of stars, but to find them is extremely difficult. Also if nearest stars have not any planets or moons it would be a problem. Some stars, including Barnard, are inclined to extreme stellar flares, which could kill the expedition.
14. The spaceship will not protect people from hostile AI that finds a way to catch up. Also in case of war starships may be prestigious, and easily vulnerable targets — unmanned rocket will always be faster than a spaceship. If arks are sent to several nearby stars, it does not ensure their secrecy, as the destination will be known in advance. Phase transition of the vacuum, the explosion of the Sun or Jupiter or other extreme event can also destroy the spaceship. See e.g. A.Bolonkin “Artificial Explosion of Sun. AB-Criterion for Solar Detonation”…Detonation
15. However, the spaceship is too expensive protection from many other risks that do not require such far removal. People could hide from almost any pandemic in the well-isolated islands in the ocean. People can hide on the Moon from gray goo, collision with asteroid, supervolcano, irreversible global warming. The ark-spaceship will carry with it problems of genetic degradation, propensity for violence and self-destruction, as well as problems associated with limited human outlook and cognitive biases. Spaceship would only burden the problem of resource depletion, as well as of wars and of the arms race. Thus, the set of global risks from which the spaceship is the best protection, is quite narrow.
16. And most importantly: does it make sense now to begin this project? Anyway, there is no time to finish it before become real new risks and new ways to create spaceships using nanotech.
Of course it easy to envision nano and AI based Ark – it would be small as grain of sand, carry only one human egg or even DNA information, and could self-replicate. The main problem with it is that it could be created only ARTER the most dangerous period of human existence, which is the period just before Singularity.

Jul 1, 2009

Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication process — progress toward self sustaining structures

Posted by in categories: complex systems, engineering, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

For any assembly or structure, whether an isolated bunker or a self sustaining space colony, to be able to function perpetually, the ability to manufacture any of the parts necessary to maintain, or expand, the structure is an obvious necessity. Conventional metal working techniques, consisting of forming, cutting, casting or welding present extreme difficulties in size and complexity that would be difficult to integrate into a self sustaining structure.

Forming requires heavy high powered machinery to press metals into their final desired shapes. Cutting procedures, such as milling and lathing, also require large, heavy, complex machinery, but also waste tremendous amounts of material as large bulk shapes are cut away emerging the final part. Casting metal parts requires a complex mold construction and preparation procedures, not only does a negative mold of the final part need to be constructed, but the mold needs to be prepared, usually by coating in ceramic slurries, before the molten metal is applied. Unless thousands of parts are required, the molds are a waste of energy, resources, and effort. Joining is a flexible process, and usually achieved by welding or brazing and works by melting metal between two fixed parts in order to join them — but the fixed parts present the same manufacturing problems.

Ideally then, in any self sustaining structure, metal parts should be constructed only in the final desired shape but without the need of a mold and very limited need for cutting or joining. In a salient progressive step toward this necessary goal, NASA demonstrates the innovative Electron Beam Free Forming Fabrication ( Process. A rapid metal fabrication process essentially it “prints” a complex three dimensional object by feeding a molten wire through a computer controlled gun, building the part, layer by layer, and adding metal only where you desire it. It requires no molds and little or no tooling, and material properties are similar to other forming techniques. The complexity of the part is limited only by the imagination of the programmer and the dexterity of the wire feed and heating device.

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Jun 25, 2009

Nuclear saber rattling

Posted by in categories: defense, lifeboat, nuclear weapons

North Korea warns of a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation” in their latest episode of megalomania.
[note, that site attempts to pop up new windows]

Got Lifeboat?

Jun 16, 2009

The Lifeboat Conversation

Posted by in categories: education, finance, futurism, lifeboat, policy, space

Many years ago, in December 1993 to be approximate, I noticed a space-related poster on the wall of Eric Klien’s office in the headquarters of the Atlantis Project. We chatted for a bit about the possibilities for colonies in space. Later, Eric mentioned that this conversation was one of the formative moments in his conception of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Another friend, filmmaker Meg McLain has noticed that orbital hotels and space cruise liners are all vapor ware. Indeed, we’ve had few better depictions of realistic “how it would feel” space resorts since 1968’s Kubrick classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Remember the Pan Am flight to orbit, the huge hotel and mall complex, and the transfer to a lunar shuttle? To this day I know people who bought reservation certificates for whenever Pan Am would begin to fly to the Moon.

In 2004, after the X Prize victory, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would be flying tourists by 2007. So far, none.

A little later, Bigelow announced a fifty million dollar prize if only tourists could be launched to orbit by January 2010. I expect the prize money won’t be claimed in time.

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Jun 16, 2009

Gulches — freedom lifeboats

Posted by in categories: education, geopolitics, habitats, lifeboat, nuclear weapons

Jim Davies of Strike the Root writes about Galt’s Gulch and some gulch-like projects. These appeal to him because of the exponential trends in government power and abuse of power. He writes, in part,

“We have the serious opportunity in our hands right now of terminating the era of government absolutely, and so of removing from the human race the threat of ever more brutal tyranny ending only with WMD annihilation–while opening up vistas of peaceful prosperity and technological progress which even a realist like myself cannot find words to describe. ”

Avoiding those terrible events is what building our Lifeboat is all about. Got Lifeboat?

Jun 16, 2009

Microbe on Ice

Posted by in categories: biological, lifeboat

It sounds like cryonics is working, at least for microbes. But could any humans now alive have resistance to ancient organisms?

Rational Review carried a link to this story:,2933,526460,00.html

“After more than 120,000 years trapped beneath a block of ice in Greenland, a tiny microbe has awoken. … The new bacteria species was found nearly 2 miles (3 km) beneath a Greenland glacier, where temperatures can dip well below freezing, pressure soars, and food and oxygen are scarce. ‘We don’t know what state they were in,’ said study team member Jean Brenchley of Pennsylvania State University. ‘They could’ve been dormant, or they could’ve been slowly metabolizing, but we don’t know for sure.’”

It is yet another interesting possibility against which humans should prepare to protect ourselves. Where is our Lifeboat?

Jan 15, 2009

What should be at the center of the U.S. stimulus package

Posted by in categories: existential risks, geopolitics, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

The projected size of Barack Obama’s “stimulus package” is heading north, from hundreds of billions of dollars into the trillions. And the Obama program comes, of course, on top of the various Bush administration bailouts and commitments, estimated to run as high as $8.5 trillion.

Will this money be put to good use? That’s an important question for the new President, and an even more important question for America. The metric for all government spending ultimately comes down to a single query: What did you get for it?

If such spending was worth it, that’s great. If the country gets victory in war, or victory over economic catastrophe, well, obviously, it was worthwhile. The national interest should never be sacrificed on the altar of a balanced budget.

So let’s hope we get the most value possible for all that money–and all that red ink. Let’s hope we get a more prosperous nation and a cleaner earth. Let’s also hope we get a more secure population and a clear, strategic margin of safety for the United States. Yet how do we do all that?

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Oct 26, 2008

Refuges and bunkers

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, cybercrime/malcode, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, sustainability, treaties

Here I would like to suggest readers a quotation from my book “Structure of the global catastrophe” ( there I discuss problems of preventing catastrophes.

Refuges and bunkers

Different sort of a refuge and bunkers can increase chances of survival of the mankind in case of global catastrophe, however the situation with them is not simple. Separate independent refuges can exist for decades, but the more they are independent and long-time, the more efforts are necessary for their preparation in advance. Refuges should provide ability for the mankind to the further self-reproduction. Hence, they should contain not only enough of capable to reproduction people, but also a stock of technologies which will allow to survive and breed in territory which is planned to render habitable after an exit from the refuge. The more this territory will be polluted, the higher level of technologies is required for a reliable survival.
Very big bunker will appear capable to continue in itself development of technologies and after catastrophe. However in this case it will be vulnerable to the same risks, as all terrestrial civilisation — there can be internal terrorists, AI, nanorobots, leaks etc. If the bunker is not capable to continue itself development of technologies it, more likely, is doomed to degradation.
Further, the bunker can be or «civilizational», that is keep the majority of cultural and technological achievements of the civilisation, or “specific”, that is keep only human life. For “long” bunkers (which are prepared for long-term stay) the problem of formation and education of children and risks of degradation will rise. The bunker can or live for the account of the resources which have been saved up before catastrophe, or be engaged in own manufacture. In last case it will be simply underground civilisation on the infected planet.
The more a bunker is constructed on modern technologies and independent cultural and technically, the higher ammount of people should live there (but in the future it will be not so: the bunker on the basis of advanced nanotechnology can be even at all deserted, — only with the frozen human embryos). To provide simple reproduction by means of training to the basic human trades, thousand people are required. These people should be selected and be in the bunker before final catastrophe, and, it is desirable, on a constant basis. However it is improbable, that thousand intellectually and physically excellent people would want to sit in the bunker “just in case”. In this case they can be in the bunker in two or three changes and receive for it a salary. (Now in Russia begins experiment «Mars 500» in which 6 humans will be in completely independent — on water, to meal, air — for 500 days. Possibly, it is the best result which we now have. In the early nineties in the USA there was also a project «Biosphera-2» in which people should live two years on full self-maintenance under a dome in desert. The project has ended with partial failure as oxygen level in system began to fall because of unforeseen reproduction of microorganisms and insects.) As additional risk for bunkers it is necessary to note fact of psychology of the small groups closed in one premise widely known on the Antarctic expeditions — namely, the increase of animosities fraught with destructive actions, reducing survival rate.
The bunker can be either unique, or one of many. In the first case it is vulnerable to different catastrophes, and in the second is possible struggle between different bunkers for the resources which have remained outside. Or is possible war continuation if catastrophe has resulted from war.
The bunker, most likely, will be either underground, or in the sea, or in space. But the space bunker too can be underground of asteroids or the Moon. For the space bunker it will be more difficult to use the rests of resources on the Earth. The bunker can be completely isolated, or to allow “excursion” in the external hostile environment.
As model of the sea bunker can serve the nuclear submarine possessing high reserve, autonomy, manoeuvrability and stability to negative influences. Besides, it can easily be cooled at ocean (the problem of cooling of the underground closed bunkers is not simple), to extract from it water, oxygen and even food. Besides, already there are ready boats and technical decisions. The boat is capable to sustain shock and radiating influence. However the resource of independent swimming of modern submarines makes at the best 1 year, and in them there is no place for storage of stocks.
Modern space station ISS could support independently life of several humans within approximately year though there are problems of independent landing and adaptation. Not clearly, whether the certain dangerous agent, capable to get into all cracks on the Earth could dissipate for so short term.
There is a difference between gaso — and bio — refuges which can be on a surface, but are divided into many sections for maintenance of a mode of quarantine, and refuges which are intended as a shelter from in the slightest degree intelligent opponent (including other people who did not manage to get a place in a refuge). In case of biodanger island with rigid quarantine can be a refuge if illness is not transferred by air.
A bunker can possess different vulnerabilities. For example, in case of biological threat, is enough insignificant penetration to destroy it. Only hi-tech bunker can be the completely independent. Energy and oxygen are necessary to the bunker. The system on a nuclear reactor can give energy, but modern machines hardly can possess durability more than 30–50 years. The bunker cannot be universal — it should assume protection against the certain kinds of threats known in advance — radiating, biological etc.
The more reinforced is a bunker, the smaller number of bunkers can prepare mankind in advance, and it will be more difficult to hide such bunker. If after a certain catastrophe there was a limited number of the bunkers which site is known, the secondary nuclear war can terminate mankind through countable number of strikes in known places.
The larger is the bunker, the less amount of such bunkers is possible to construct. However any bunker is vulnerable to accidental destruction or contamination. Therefore the limited number of bunkers with certain probability of contamination unequivocally defines the maximum survival time of mankind. If bunkers are connected among themselves by trade and other material distribution, contamination between them is more probable. If bunkers are not connected, they will degrade faster. The more powerfully and more expensively is the bunker, the more difficult is to create it imperceptibly for the probable opponent and so it easeir becomes the goal for an attack. The more cheaply the bunker, the less it is durable.
Casual shelters — the people who have escaped in the underground, mines, submarines — are possible. They will suffer from absence of the central power and struggle for resources. The people, in case of exhaustion of resources in one bunker, can undertake the armed attempts to break in other next bunker. Also the people who have escaped casually (or under the threat of the comong catastrophe), can attack those who was locked in the bunker.
Bunkers will suffer from necessity of an exchange of heat, energy, water and air with an external world. The more independent is the bunker, the less time it can exist in full isolation. Bunkers being in the Earth will deeply suffer from an overheating. Any nuclear reactors and other complex machines will demand external cooling. Cooling by external water will unmask them, and it is impossible to have energy sources lost-free in the form of heat, while on depth of earth there are always high temperatures. Temperature growth, in process of deepening in the Earth, limits depth of possible bunkers. (The geothermal gradient on the average makes 30 degrees C/kilometers. It means, that bunkers on depth more than 1 kilometre are impossible — or demand huge cooling installations on a surface, as gold mines in the republic of South Africa. There can be deeper bunkers in ices of Antarctica.)
The more durable, more universal and more effective, should be a bunker, the earlier it is necessary to start to build it. But in this case it is difficult to foresee the future risks. For example, in 1930th years in Russia was constructed many anti-gase bombproof shelters which have appeared useless and vulnerable to bombardments by heavy demolition bombs.
Efficiency of the bunker which can create the civilisation, corresponds to a technological level of development of this civilisation. But it means that it possesses and corresponding means of destruction. So, especially powerful bunker is necessary. The more independently and more absolutely is the bunker (for example, equipped with AI, nanorobots and biotechnologies), the easier it can do without, eventually, people, having given rise to purely computer civilisation.
People from different bunkers will compete for that who first leaves on a surface and who, accordingly, will own it — therefore will develop the temptation for them to go out to still infected sites of the Earth.
There are possible automatic robotic bunkers: in them the frozen human embryos are stored in a certain artificial uterus and through hundreds or thousand years start to be grown up. (Technology of cryonics of embryos already exists, and works on an artificial uterus are forbidden for bioethics reasons, but basically such device is possible.) With embryos it is possible to send such installations in travel to other planets. However, if such bunkers are possible, the Earth hardly remains empty — most likely it will be populated with robots. Besides, if the human cub who has been brought up by wolves, considers itself as a wolf as whom human who has been brought up by robots will consider itself?
So, the idea about a survival in bunkers contains many reefs which reduce its utility and probability of success. It is necessary to build long-term bunkers for many years, but they can become outdated for this time as the situation will change and it is not known to what to prepare. Probably, that there is a number of powerful bunkers which have been constructed in days of cold war. A limit of modern technical possibilities the bunker of an order of a 30-year-old autonomy, however it would take long time for building — decade, and it will demand billions dollars of investments.
Independently there are information bunkers, which are intended to inform to the possible escaped descendants about our knowledge, technologies and achievements. For example, in Norway, on Spitsbergen have been created a stock of samples of seeds and grain with these purposes (Doomsday Vault). Variants with preservation of a genetic variety of people by means of the frozen sperm are possible. Digital carriers steady against long storage, for example, compact discs on which the text which can be read through a magnifier is etched are discussed and implemented by Long Now Foundation. This knowledge can be crucial for not repeating our errors.

Oct 8, 2008

Global Catastrophic Risks: Building a Resilient Civilization

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, chemistry, cybercrime/malcode, defense, events, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology, nuclear weapons, robotics/AI

November 14, 2008
Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA

Organized by: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation

A day-long seminar on threats to the future of humanity, natural and man-made, and the pro-active steps we can take to reduce these risks and build a more resilient civilization. Seminar participants are strongly encouraged to pre-order and review the Global Catastrophic Risks volume edited by Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic, and contributed to by some of the faculty for this seminar.

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